Sharul Channa Stand Up Comedian Breaking The Norms
Sharul Channa Stand Up Comedian Breaking The Norms
Sharul is the only full-time female stand-up comedian in Singapore. Fuelled by the twin desires to give women a voice and put Singapore on the global comedy map, she has recently staged sold-out shows highlighting the challenges faced by women today, such as Crazy Poor Sita, and Disco Sheela and Other Indian Superwomen. Also a trained actor, she is planning a tour of Asia.
Sharul thank you for interviewing with us. You have a great following on TicTok over 155k. Did you just wake up one day and decided to be a comedian? Tell us how did you start?
It is not a childhood dream of an Indian girl to grow up and be funny. Our culture doesn’t advocate it. I just fell into the 2nd wave of the stand-up revolution in Singapore that started about 10 years back. I have been trained in theatre from Lasalle, College of the arts in Singapore, and being cast as the comical character in the plays was a common pattern but I hadn’t expected to become a stand-up comedian. I used to attend a new open-mic in Singapore which was the new rage in the art scene and since no women were jumping up to test jokes, the owner of the comedy club insisted I fill the women quota and try to do some jokes.
Tell us more about your background. Where are you originally from?
I am a Singaporean but my parents are from North India ( Delhi and Chandigarh).
Comedy comes from darkness… How much do you agree with it?
I think there is definitely some truth in this statement. A thin line separates tragedy and Comedy and since comedy is the business of wrapping up some hard-hitting realities with humor, it is bound to come from a place of truth. The truth can be dark at times!
Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
I draw ideas and inspiration from personal experiences, world events, family trauma and closely observing society.
Stand-up comedy is a difficult task. Tell us about your first experience as a stand-up comedian?
About 10 years back, I jumped up on stage to try to make people laugh for 3 mins. Three minutes might sound like a very short time on stage but trust me it’s the longest when it comes to humor if you are new to this art form. Having said that, people laughed at my jokes and it was like a new high and addiction to get this kind of validation from people. I had people laughing at my jokes! I got hooked and kept coming back to the comedy club for open-mic.
What type of events you have done and what is the dream event you want to perform at?
Sharul Channa has been a full-time stand-up comedian for the last 10 years and has performed to packed houses all over Asia and Australia. She also participated in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2016 and 2017.
Channa is formally trained in theatre from Lasalle, College of the Arts, which was the reason for her continued passion for acting despite having a flourishing stand-up career. Over the past two years, Channa has proven her ability to use comedy to shed light on important and sometimes neglected, social issues in Singapore. In 2017, she deconstructed misogyny at Indian weddings with Sharul Weds Sharul, performed to sold-out theatres at The Esplanade and at The Darwin Festival in Australia. In 2018, she cycled through multiple characters in Disco Sheela and Other Indian Superwomen, a show that left “listeners breathless with laughter, and in the next moment, unable to breathe because the truth hurts” (The Straits Times, LIFE!).
More recently, in a performance that earned her a Best Actress nomination at The Straits Times LIFE! Theatre Awards, Channa highlighted the plight of women living below the poverty line in Singapore, in her landmark solo 2019 piece, Crazy Poor Sita. She has performed four one-woman theatre shows: Crazy poor Sita (Nominee, Best Actress, The Straits Times, Life! Theatre Awards 2020), Disco Sheela and other Indian superwomen, Sharul Weds Sharul and Am I Old? which was recently performed while Singapore was under lockdown during Covid-19, on Zoom in collaboration with AWARE. The 8 shows of Am I Old? received rave reviews in the Straits Times and were translated and performed in both Tamil and Hindi. Channa also performed three shows of her one-woman show, Co-Weird times virtually on Zoom during Covid-19 lockdown. Since the easing of lockdown rules, Channa has performed two live stand-up shows at the Capitol Theatre in December 2020; one live show at the Wild Rice theatre in January 2021 and multiple house-full runs of 2021’s Women’s Day stand-up special Cleavage Murukku Crusher and Other Jokes by Sharul Channa.
For now, during these covid-19 times, I think that a stage to perform on is already a blessing and since Singapore has opened up the LIVE theatre scene, I feel just blessed to put up shows and have an audience that is laughing even with the mask on. I hope the situation gets better around the world so stand-up comedians can travel to perform again.
How is it to be a female comedian of Asian descent? Tell us a little bit about your struggles.
People don’t expect Asian girls to be funny. We are expected to be demure, pretty, dainty, and lady-like so in the earlier days when I jumped up on stage to make people laugh, people didn’t know how to react to it but as my writing and performance as a stand-up comedian got better, I think they got past their own judgments and inhibitions. As a comedian, it was my responsibility to get so good at what I do, that they get past my gender and react to what I am saying.
Who are your personal favorite comedians?
Ellen Degeneres, Cristela Alonzo, Ali Wong, Vir Das, Ronny Chieng
Some words for your fans…
Trust your instincts and believe in your dreams, since they are YOUR dreams…no one will be more passionate about them as you are so work towards your goals and eventually the crowd will start supporting you!